Lent: Learning to be #Beloved

Lent has begun. I skipped pancake Tuesday because well, I hate pancakes. Too much sweet and honestly, it’s breakfast for supper which I despise.

However, I decided to join Margaret Feinberg in reading through the Book of John and colouring and doodling my way through her book Beloved: 40 Days in the Gospel of John. I went through the New Testament with Margaret a few years ago during Lent, which I really enjoyed.  This year’s idea intrigued me.

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To be honest, I haven’t participated in Lent recently. Bible reading had become a chore and a have-to-do and so I stopped. What was the point if I was just going to be fake about it, right? So I read when I felt like it but mostly I didn’t engage in daily devotions. There I admitted it.

By the end of 2016, God was nudging me. It was time. I picked up Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I had read it before and liked it. It appealed to me. It was short but meaningful. A good start for a prodigal bible reader.

I’ve kept it up too because at some point you have to stop going by feeling and instead go by faith. But I felt the need for more.

Then, I saw Margaret’s book and decided to order it and work through it for Lent. I liked the idea of marking the text in colour and the creative aspect of working my way through scripture. I hoped it would help me to love reading God’s Word again or at least ignite a spark.

Margaret admitted to starting early because she was so excited so I admit I cheated a bit too and read the scripture through yesterday and started to circle the verbs in red. I was in a bit of a panic because I wasn’t sure I could spend that much time in the Word. I doubted myself as I read. What was a verb again? (Hello, English major here!) I thought to myself, “I can’t do this! It won’t be perfect!” But I made myself start.

I’m glad I did because today was not a good start to Lent. I was grouchy. The basement has a leak that we can’t find. It rained all night. Life happens and I forgot about Lent and reading Beloved.

I saw the email in my inbox after dropping the boys off at school. A reminder. I realized I didn’t really want to do the day’s reading. I wasn’t feeling it. Ironically, Margaret has suggested asking ourselves at the end of the day’s reading, “What do I most need to read but least want to hear?” Welllll today I just plain didn’t want to read God’s Word, any part of it but it’s what I most needed. Maybe not a great way to start Lent but for me, today, it is what’s happening. It’s what’s real.

The good news? God meets us in our very real places. Once I got reading and marking and colouring, I had fun! It’s the best time I’ve spent in God’s Word in a long time. It was just for me. No studying for a message or any other agenda. It was just time for me and God. I felt lighter for it.

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I’m pretty sure I’m going to be challenged by both scripture and the discipline of sticking to the readings, this Lent season. I have let these muscles atrophy. But already I have learned that God doesn’t expect perfection. (Thank you Margaret for making that point!) I don’t need to mark up my book perfectly to learn from it. I just have to do it! He graciously and generously fills in the rest.

What are you doing for Lent this year? It doesn’t have to be complicated. I think if you just take the step forward, He’ll meet you wherever you are. Because that’s His character and He loves you so very much.

Here’s a link to find out more about Margaret Feinberg’s Beloved study for Lent.

 

Why I Need to Rethink Interruptions

The marathon of March break has begun.  Right at the same time as reading through the New Testament in 40 days with Margaret Feinberg.   Awesome.  I’m going to have so much spare time during spring break!  In addition I’ve got a head cold.  What a super start to the break!

On Monday as I’m getting ready to start my reading, I sent the boys to watch (horrors) TV.  As the sound was starting to inch up, I yelled for them to turn it down as I had “stuff to do”.  As in bible reading.  Superb.  Let’s start our reading with yelling at the kids.

Today when I pulled my bible out, a little head appeared and started to tell me about the latest LEGO thing.  How am I supposed to read for Lent, do my bible study as well as write, all of which requires quiet.

As I lay awake in the early hours trying to breathe and keep my head from exploding, I thought about what it was I was trying to do this Lenten season.

Walk closer to Jesus.  Get to know him better so I can be more like him.  As I read through Matthew last week (before March break) and as I’ve been doing my bible study on Jesus, what stood out to me was Jesus often broke off from the crowds to get rest, be alone and pray.

But as many times as he did, he got interrupted.  By the crowds seeking him out.  By his disciples.  Never once did he turn them away with a harsh, Leave me alone.  Instead, he welcomed them and had compassion on them.

Really?  It seems to me that a good portion of Jesus’ ministry was made up of interruptions.  People asking for healing.  He couldn’t even teach without being interrupted by a man coming down through a hole in the roof!  Crowds came out of the cities to hear him by the thousands.  And when a woman touched his cloak for healing because she didn’t want to bother him, he stopped and sought her out.

Why?  Because that was why he came.  He was about his father’s business and that business was us.

Why am I surprised and annoyed with interruptions?  Why do I hold so tightly to my agenda?  If Jesus’ ministry was made up of many interruptions, why am I so surprised by them in my own life?

What would happen if the only thing I took away from my Lent readings was that Jesus welcomed interruptions (people) and had compassion on them?  That I too, was an interruption and he welcomed me and had compassion on me?

What if I took Jesus’ example seriously?  What if I welcomed my kids interrupting my readings and had compassion on them?  Wouldn’t that make more of a difference than checking my little done box?

What if I filtered my interruptions through Jesus?  He had compassion on the people because they were lost, like a sheep without a shepherd it says in the book of Luke.  What if I looked on my annoyances (people) through the eyes of Jesus?

I admit I don’t relish the idea of welcoming interruptions because it’s scary.  It means I may have to get off my comfy couch.  Honestly, I’m afraid I’ll fail.  I am so entrenched in my own life and agenda that I’m afraid I’ll fail miserably at this.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite.  So why bother right?  But wait, aren’t we given the Holy Spirit precisely because we can’t ever do this on our own?   If we are walking beside Jesus wouldn’t we trust him to help us?

Lent is preparing our hearts for Easter.  Maybe that includes embracing and welcoming the interruptions that make up our lives.  Sometimes it’s the interruptions in life that cause the most change simply because we listened and obeyed Him.  And we once again get to witness his faithfulness.  In the end isn’t that what it’s all about anyways?

 

Potholes, First Response and Lent

 

I’m not sure about where you live but our roads are full of potholes!  Ones that make you go ouch! and hope and pray that your tires and underside are still there!  The deep freeze of 2014 has caused major upheaval on our roads.  Potholes can bang your car around, cause major damage to tires among other things and basically trip you up.

I hate the potholes that life brings too.  Things that may seem minor but can cause deep lasting damage.  The effect of going over too many.  Wearing you down.  I’m tired of being banged around, blindsided and then reacting to them.

My goal: respond rather than react.  Much harder said than done, if you have always been a reactor like me, not a responder.  Two of my sisters have been ER nurses and one is married to an ambulance attendant.  They are called first responders for a reason.  They go in prepared.  They don’t react to a crisis, they respond.  They’ve trained so they know what to do when a situation arises.

I want to be a first responder not a first reactor.  First reactors cause a bigger mess, more damage.  I’ve done it a hundred times.  Yuk.

I’ve been thinking about Lent.  I know, how does this have to relate to potholes and first responders, right?  Stay with me.  I have really been trying to respond not react in my life.  Be a participant rather than a bystander, just letting life happen.  So many holidays go by and I feel empty.  I haven’t prepared for them in my heart.  It happens.  I get it.  But I’m a little tired of it happening to me.

I felt God nudge me to walk more intentionally by his side as the new year approached.  One area that needed attention was confession.  I admit, I blew through my “I’m sorrys” if I did them at all.  I didn’t really sit down and take it seriously.  I didn’t have time.  I didn’t really examine my heart.  God was telling me it was time to grow up in this area.

As I’ve been on the journey of confession, on the horizon appeared Lent.  It got my attention.  Unlike Advent, I was open to the idea of Lent.  Advent felt like a HAVE TO but Lent is a I WANT TO.  This is partly due to the fact, I’m in a bible study this winter, studying the life of Jesus.  My heart is open not closed.

The other reason is a book, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg, I read last spring.  She has a wonderful chapter on prayer and Lent.  Margaret writes, “Maybe instead of asking, What are we giving up for Lent? we need to ask, Who and what are we trying to receive through Lent?”  (p. 82)

I really like the shift of focus off my self-denial and onto the One who Lent is really about.  That doesn’t mean self-denial isn’t part of it but the focal point is off my personal martyrdom.

In those forty days of Lent, I want to walk beside Jesus, like the disciples.  As we’ve studied Jesus in our study, it’s been interesting to see how much of an effect Jesus has on those who draw near Him.  His Holiness, His Majesty, His Love, His Truth reveal people’s hearts.  Those whose hearts are open to Him reveal gratitude, love, reverence, to name a few.  Those whose hearts are far from Him, reveal judgement, fear, pride, hate and self-preservation.  I want my heart revealed this Lent. I want to be affected by Jesus in these forty days.  Then the potholes won’t trip me up because I’ve trained alongside Him and I can respond rather than react.

Can this happen in forty days?  Honestly I feel a little afraid, doubtful.  My faith is immature when it comes to trust.  “Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I whisper.  My head knowledge is telling me that God is faithful.  I’ve seen it again and again in the scriptures.  I think I just need to take the first step.

How to accomplish this?  I’m praying about reading through the new testament with Margaret Feinberg through Lent.  (see widget on sidebar)  The New Testament in forty days?  That’s a commitment and a sacrifice of time.  I’ll have to be intentional about it.  Not let the potholes of life distract me.

Do you practice Lent?  If so what are you doing?  If not, why not?